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G. Cabrera Infante

G. Cabrera Infante author of Three Trapped Tigers, was born in Cuba in 1929, one of a Communist family. He was editor of the magazine Lunes de Revolucion until it was banned in 1961. He left Cuba in 1965 and has been a British citizen since 1966. His second novel, Infante’s Inferno, will be published in New York next year, and he is working on a new novel, Divine Bodies.

At Tranquilina’s Knee

G. Cabrera Infante, 2 June 1983

To judge by the reaction of some of his staunchest admirers, many readers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez were truly taken aback by what he wrote about the alleged behaviour of British troops in the trenches during the Little War for the Falklands. It’s surprising, however, that most of his disenchanted fans live not in England but in Spain, where the offending article appeared. Down there they are still writing letters of disapproval – though Spanish readers are not exactly what you could call a race of letter-writers. They don’t read the Times, you see. Besides, Spain is a traditional rival of Britain in most international affairs, from the World Cup to the Rock. Moreover, the Spanish were verbal supporters of the Argentine side in what’s usually called by Spaniards la guerra de las Malvinas. They, too, refuse to call the islands Falklands.–

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante, 18 November 1982

Sebastian Venable, the poet as pervert in Suddenly Last Summer, claimed as new and personal an old and decadent dictum now rephrased to suit the stage: ‘The life of the poet is the work of the poet and the work of the poet is the life of the poet.’ This is Oscar Wilde as rewritten by Tennessee Williams. The author of that gruesome playlet must have had in mind the notorious Algerian meeting near the fin de siecle in which Wilde, holding Bosie’s hand, boasted before a timid André Gide of having put all his genius into his life (looking at Bosie) but only his talent (looking at Gide) into his writing – and in the same bad breath told Gide, a prim and puritanical pederast, that there was an Arab boy he shouldn’t miss au poil for all the mint tea in Araby! Williams made his poet pervert die cannibalised on a Mediterranean beach. A film of the same summerish title and along similar lines, but in which the star was a Venus flytrap, was shot in Mexico and exhibited in the late Fifties but is now screened only in the late late shows. Unnaturally, the Mediterranean youth became riotous hungry children – of Sanchez perhaps? – eager to devour the pederast poet. As with so much of the propaganda posing as art which is made by American libbers with lots of reactionary American money (see Reds – or rather don’t), the spectator never knows, in two dimensions, if he is watching a battle of attrition in the Third World, or an act of contrition for (not against) Plutocracy. But Pluto is a monster of such frightful mien that only Dickens could look it in the face and not vomit sweet and sour curses like ‘imperialists’, ‘exploiters’.

Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

G. Cabrera Infante, 4 June 1981

The decline of the so-called Cuban cultural renaissance started when Virgilio Pinera came down the ladder of the Czech airplane that brought him back from Brussels via Prague. He deplaned with mincing steps and, fluttering like a tropical butterfly suddenly sprung alive from a collector’s case, stopped briefly and then kneeled and leaned forward to kiss the red Cuban soil – only to smack the tarmac instead. (This gesture proved to be some sort of near-miss-cum-hubris for, you see, the runway had recently been covered with a Russian blacktop.) Though it didn’t really all begin then, but a few months earlier when Lunes, the literary supplement of the newspaper Revolucion, on which Virgilio Pinera was one of the principal collaborators (the word was usually meant in its second sense), was banned and closed down for good. Only it didn’t begin then either, but when they censored and sequestered PM, a documentary sponsored by Lunes that didn’t have any political content to warrant the seizure. That was really the beginning of the end. But let’s start at the very beginning – which was when dictator Batista decided to flee instead of fighting and the 26th of July Movement took over the Government in the name of the Revolution, its martyrs and the poor people of Cuba.

Letter

Cain’s Cuba

18 November 1982

SIR: Who is Pedro Perez, and why is he saying these ludicrous things about me? He claims he knew me as Cain but I swear I don’t know him from Adam. His letter (Letters, 30 December 1982) I do recognise, though. It’s the typical production of the apparatchik: a massive missive made in Moscow, that Mecca of the political meccano. This letter is, in fact, a lie a line. I don’t have the...

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